Sustainable Tourism Singapore Series #4
United Nations had declared 2017 as the International Year Of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Here is the fourth and the last post of my 4-post Sustainable Tourism Series on Singapore. You may read the first three posts HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Come walk with me within Singapore’s green lung!
Singapore Botanic Gardens – A Forest in the City
There is an unusual linkage between Singapore and Rio. No, I am not talking about Joseph Schooling winning first Olympic Gold for Singapore in Rio. I am referring to these being the only two cities in the world that have a rainforest within the city limits. A 6-hectare (15 acres) Rainforest thrives in Singapore Botanic Gardens.
The erstwhile Agri-horticultural Society established Singapore’s ‘Botanic Gardens’ during the mid-nineteenth century. Covering 72 hectares (183 acres), these gardens abut the shopping hub of Singapore – Orchard Road.
Recently, in 2015, this became the 3rd Botanical Garden in the world to be accorded a UNESCO World Heritage site status – the other two being in Europe (Kew Botanic Garden, London and the Botanical Garden of Padua, Italy).
Let’s go in
As I was entering the garden through Nassim Gate, a few signboards caught my attention. One of them was about the history of the garden. Reading the factoid that the garden was established in 1859, I realised that it is more than three times older than Singapore, the nation.
Another signboard was about the dos and don’ts in the garden. Apart from the usual norms like walking a dog on a leash and cleaning up after it, abstaining from using skateboards, bicycles et al, what caught my eye was smoking inside is prohibited, and the fine is a hefty S$2000.
My ‘Sustainable Travel’ hat made me look at it in a lighter vein. While you will do good if you don’t smoke as it helps the environment, you will perhaps do better by smoking, getting fined and supporting the local government’s funding needs for the upkeep of the garden.
A walk inside the gardens is literally a veritable voyage of discovery. Importantly, its history of 19th-century research and subsequent adoption of rubber plantation techniques across the Malay Peninsula that made it the largest rubber-producing region in the world.
The World Within
Traipsing along the verdant winding paths, you would find towering tropical trees rubbing shoulders with replicas of pre-historic giant club mosses, a dedicated ginger garden, a few mini-lakes and a cool house. Incidentally, the cool house simulates high-altitude climates and is home to mountainous plants. Once here, swirling mountain mists would engulf you. But make sure you don’t miss out on the carnivorous plants like the Pitcher Plant and the Venus Flytrap that inhabit this enchanted environ.
A star attraction here is the Orchid Garden, housing the world’s largest collection of Orchids. In this ticketed garden you’ll find a smaller, more exotic VIP Orchid Garden.
But let the name not fool you. Actually, this garden is not for VIPs. In fact, it is the centrepiece of Singapore’s famed orchid diplomacy. The visiting dignitaries of the world lend the flora its name. Alongside Margaret Thatcher, Lady Diana and Emperor Akihito, orchids named after Ricky Martin, Jackie Chan and our very own Shah Rukh Khan cohabit here.
For a small country with a humungous Carbon footprint, this green lung is a natural saving grace. A visit here is likely to reconnect you with nature and could well start your romance with sustainable travel. Make a visit on a weekend afternoon. And, you may just end up catching a scintillating musical performance on the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage in Symphony Lake!